Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Lordy, Lordy, OMG, I'm 40!

Is June really almost over?! Has it been six months since my last blog post? Goodness. I have much to share.

Today is my 40th BIRTHDAY! That's right...I'm 40! Yikes! The age I thought was old not too many years ago. The "over the hill" age. The "I'm never going to be THAT old" age. LOL! Well, it's here and I made it...but I still feel as young in heart as I did in my 20s. Sure, some of my body parts ache a bit and are not quite as 20-ish as I remember, my eyesight is not as sharp as it once was, and my energy has turned down a tad, but I'm healthier and happier than I've been in years.

How's your 2016 going? I hope it's been a great year so far. After the tough challenges of 2014 and 2015 with my daughter's cancer fight, the loss of my grandmother, and two job disappointments, I promised myself I would make 2016 a better year. A reboot if you will. This year is a milestone year for me and I wanted to make a positive change both mentally and physically for the BIG 4-0. Moving forward, I'm focused on less stress and more meaningful time for my faith, family, and myself, I set some real goals and my life is on a much better path. Prayers and patience (even for me) have been the key.

Here are just a few of my top #2016goals:

Morning Prayer Time

The first thing I needed to reboot was my prayer time. I felt I neglected the importance and necessity of my relationship with God last year. So, I made myself get up at 5-5:30 am, before the day really began, to spend quiet time in prayer. It was a tough adjustment but this simple change in sitting with the Good Lord has enhanced my life in amazing ways. Along with my daily readings and reflections, I'm faithfully keeping a prayer journal. And, after a 10 year hiatus, I joined my church community for our annual Good Friday Walk. I was asked to give a witness of my faith journey especially during Lily's cancer treatment. It was a beautiful day spent with friends, family, and God. This was Luke's first year to participate in the Walk and I was proud of his reverent attitude for the day.

Better Planning

I'm typically organized and orderly but wasn't feeling as if I was accomplishing much over the past few years using my iPad calendar and task list. So, I decided to go back to a paper planner. After some searching, I bought one from A Faithful Mom planner. There's something fulfilling about writing down and checking off a to-do list or writing out a calendar. I've completed more tasks with my paper planner in the past six months than my Outlook task list I used for the last 5 years!


I felt like I've let myself go over the years...not exercising or eating well, hair's too grey, unnecessary stress, self disappointments, etc. With this year being my 40th, I really wanted to feel better about myself. So after my prayer time, I added exercise as part of my morning routine. I wrote out a workout plan in my planner for 5 days/week. The cool thing about my planner is a checklist for daily scripture, prayer, and exercise, plus a section to keep track of daily items (i.e workout and heart rate monitoring). I rotated PiYO, walking, and a Couch to 5K app. I've stuck to my plan well, incorporating running after I finished the C25K app. My diet still needs improvements but I'm finally seeing physical results from my workouts. Yay! #littlewins

Running Events

While in Memphis for Lily's second year scans, we saw tons banners and felt the hype for the St. Jude Marathon. I decided I wanted to participate in some of these running events...which also helped inspire me to start exercising. I thought a 5K would be the easiest to accomplish first, hence I downloaded the C25K app.

The kids and I walked our first 5K in the new OLOL Children's Hospital Amazing Half Marathon in March. They ran in the kids' races and love getting the shinny metals. It was such a fun day!

I also joined the Hogwarts Running Club and ran The Umbridge Run in April :)

Our family is registered for this year's St. Jude Walk.Run to End Childhood Cancer in September. It's "team Lily Raffray's" third year to participate. I registered for the new 5K chipped race! Our goal is to raise $10,000 for St. Jude Children's Research Hospital and we are halfway to reaching our goal thanks to the success of the 2nd Annual Lily's Tea Party.

I also want to be a St. Jude Hero and participate in the St. Jude Memphis Marathon Weekend in December. I registered "team Lily Raffray" for the half marathon and joined a few other St. Jude heros to train. [Go "Team Trevor!"] My dear friend, Jenny, is joining me, too. We are so excited to work together to support St. Jude! Our fundraising goal is $1,000+!

As a birthday present to me, please support our fundraising efforts for "team Lily Raffray" at the Memphis Marathon Weekend and/or the Baton Rouge St. Jude Walk.Run. (The links are directly to our team fundraising page for each event.) Thank you!!

Create new invitation designs

After putting my invitation design business on the back burner during my teaching training/experience, it was time to get back to my much needed creative outlet! Here are just a few samples of my new designs:

Become a Disney Vacation Planner

Hello, my name is Juliet and I'm a Disney Addict. I have a Disney-themed office, watch Disney movies and listen to Disney soundtracks, had a Disney-themed classroom, wrote a few blog posts about my Disney obsession, etc. etc. So it's no surprise I had interest in becoming a Disney vacation planner. After years of thinking and scratching the surface, I finally took the plunged and dug deeper in researching and talking to different agencies and found a fit with Mouse Tales Travel. I'm a graduate of the College of Disney Knowledge and a Universal Orlando Parks and Resort Specialist. I'm so excited to finally make this happen and can't wait to see where this adventure with Disney takes me!!
Shameless plug...please consider booking through me for your Disney (and/or Universal) vacation: or

Take a family beach vacation

Our family was long overdue for a vacation and the kids are always asking to go to the beach. Keeping with this year's family focus, we booked a quick vaca to Sandpiper Beacon Resort in Panama City. The weather and beach scenery were beautiful and we had a great time! The kids loved the resort with the indoor pool, slides, lazy river, and mini-golf...and the beach, of course! I haven't been in the Gulf water in years (I'm partial to pools with a lane lines). I enjoyed floating on the water with the kids and listening to their belly laughs as we were tumbled over from the waves. I loved watching my husband play in the sand with the kids. We needed this carefree time. This was our first vacation without Brendon since living on his, he went on a cruise the month before. LOL!

Gotta get my Disney fix...and secretly try to spend my birthday at WDW

With my new Disney travel endeavor, I just had to go back to Walt Disney World, of course. Thanks to Lily's Girl Scouts troop, we were able to go last week....just close enough to celebrate my 40th birthday at Disney :) With funds earned from cookie sales and various fundraisers, the troop was able to participated in two Disney Youth Education Programs at the Magic Kingdom and Epcot.

Lily and I took this opportunity to have a "Mommy and Me trip." I don't think I've been to Disney World before with so many new attractions to see - Frozen Ever After, Soarin’ Around the World, Disney Springs, and the Star Wars Nighttime Spectacular - all fantastic!! It was by far my favorite Disney trip (next to our Disney Cruise). We enjoyed walking around the parks, taking in the magical ambiance, not rushing to attractions or standing in long lines, and no family fights - something I haven't done since my College Program days. Lily was an excellent Disney companion and I'm so glad we were able to spend this special time together. Best Disney Birthday!

So I guess you can say, 2016 is turning out to be an excellent year (Thank you, Lord) and turning 40 is not so bad. I've had a wonderful birthday month and a lazy birthday day with my kids. I pray for a long life with continued health and happiness. Now off to watch something Marvel with my wonderful husband :)


Monday, January 4, 2016

Reflecting on 2015

Happy New Year!

I thought it would be a fun idea to look back and compile some picture of what we did last year. It wasn't until I was almost done with this post that I realized we had a pretty eventful year. When you reflect and look back you can see God's hand in guiding your journey as well as his multitude of blessings.

After 2014 was such a terrible year -- working through the disappointments of my job, pushing past Lily's cancer scare, and coping with my grandmother's sudden death -- I was ready for a new year! It was a great relief as 2015 started out on a fun note. Although we were beginning to struggle financially with one income, I was happy being home for my family. Getting the kids on/off the bus. Keeping a clean house. Order and control...just what someone like me needed.

We kicked off the new year in January with Luke's science-themed birthday party. It was such a fun party for him since he loves anything and everything with science. He had discovered Bill Nye the Science Guy so his party was loosely based on that theme. He helped plan his party from the invitation design to making the cake to setting out the decorations. Little plug, you can check out the science party invitation on my Etsy shop here. So cute!

After our Disney and Universal Studios vacation last December, Luke showed lots of interest in Harry Potter and decided to read the books. I could not have been more excited to share my obsession with him. He read all seven books in three months! We surprised him with his very own wand for such an accomplishment! He enjoyed the books and movies so much that he dressed as Harry Potter for a 'dress like your favorite book character day' at school. He wore my scarf, Prefect pen, Harry Potter 3-D glasses, and carried my Golden Snitch.

Everyone knows I love Disney, so I was surprised to be selected by Disney Parks and MomSelect to host a Disney Side @ Home Celebration. I received free products to host a Disney themed party just for fun! I hosted my party in February. You can read about how I was DisneySide-ing before #DisneySide was Cool and my DisneySide @Home Celebration. Here the goodies I received in my package!

In March, we watched the popular St. Patrick's Day Parade. This was the first time I had ever been. It was like Mardi Gras but green. Ha!

Lily had a colorful balloon themed birthday party with a special appearance by some members of the Gatorette dance team. They taught her their popular game cadence dances.

Lily's hair was really growing back after she lost it from chemo. It was growing a little "out of wack" so she had her "first" hair cut in April. As with tradition, I had my Aunt Tonie do the honors.

April is always a busy month. My mom, sister, the kids and I participated in the Color Run again this year. Thanks to their glitter theme, I had silver and gold glitter in my van for months!

We celebrated Eater.

We attended our first Dreams Come True event - Car Show and Crawfish Boil Fundraiser - and had the opportunity to meet other DCT families. DCT is a wonderful organization that grants dreams to kids with life-threatening illnesses. DCT presented Lily with our dream trip to Disney (Dec 2014). Learn more about their organization here.

Lily also had her first Kindergarten field trip to the Audubon Zoo. I was so happy to be able to attend it with her. Luke forbid me to attend such functions with him. LOL!

May was also jammed packed! We had a fun time at the Dream Day Foundation's Fishin' Galore event for St. Jude families. It was a beautiful day filled with tons of things to do -- fishing, petting zoo, motorcycle and helicopter rides, arts and crafts, horse/buggy rides, face painting, photo booth, music, food, etc.! I took lots of pictures and had all intentions to write a post about the event but never had the chance to put it together :(

That same afternoon, we also showed our support for our local Relay For Life event.

I registered Lily to participate in the Jambalaya Pageant. Last year, she received 2nd Alternative and Most Photogenic. She didn't place this year but she's always be my beautiful princess!

The most exciting family milestone this month, and year for that matter, was Brendon's high school graduation day!! We were so happy and proud of him. You can read the post I shared here

The next day, this mama needed a much needed girls' night -- a New Kids on the Block concert! I've been a NKOTB fan since day one and really enjoyed their concert!

June was yet another eventful and fun month. I had been accepted in the Teach Ascension Academy and began training to work on my teaching certification. 

We celebrated one of my sweet cousin's wedding to his beautiful bride at Ormond Plantation in Destrehan. They asked me to do their invitations, RSVP card, and specialty drink sign. It was truly such a beautiful wedding and everyone had a grand time!

We hosted our first fundraiser for St. Jude, Lily's Tea Party. Thanks to my awesome mom who did 90% of the work to put this successful tea together! We were blown away by the attendance (close to 150) and the outpouring of support for our event. We raised over $4,000 towards "Team Lily Raffray's" goal for the St. Jude Walk/Run. We will soon be diving into planning this year's tea party! Check out Lily's Tea Party on Facebook.

The kids participated in many summer clinics including Astronomy camp, cheer and dance clinics, art camp, basketball camp, and Minion camp.

Finally, we were asked to participate in the St. Jude Dream Home Give-a-Way our local news station. The kids love being on the set!

[As I'm putting this post together and looking back at the pictures from this past year, I never realized how many St. Jude or Dream Come True family events we had the privilege to attend. We have met so many sweet families :)]

July seemed to be a little calmer...I guess, in hindsight, it was the calm before the storm. I was intensely studying to pass my necessary Praxis exams and the kids were still involved in summer camps. One of our DCT moms asked if Lily and I wanted to go to the Miss USA Pageant (preliminary night). Of course! We sat right in the front. The girls had the opportunity to meet the Miss Teen USA contestants and Nia Sanchez, Miss USA 2014.

Lily had her 9 month follow up appointment. She had all good labs just like her past two appointments. Praise God. We celebrated Ole Paw's 85th birthday and enjoyed a lazy 4th of July.

We also added a new member to our family, Cuddles the cat. Spoiled.

In August, football season was in full swing! The kids started a new school year and I was going crazy trying to figure out how to teach Kindergarten. My life became tiring and stressful beyond belief as I devoted countless hours to schoolwork, prepare lessons,, it seems like a blur.
Roger started his new job and Brendon started his first real-life job working 40 hours a week.

Luke attended his first Saints game at the Superdome. He was so excited because they were playing his favorite team, New England Patriots. He's sporting both team colors! LOL!

September rolled through and we celebrated Brendon's birthday with an Italian dinner and beignets for breakfast.

Since living through cancer, we now do our part to spread awareness for childhood cancer. This year, the St. Jude Walk.Run was moved to September during childhood cancer awareness month. We were out early to support our "Team Lily Raffray" and pay honor to survivors and angels.

I took Lily to her first Broadway show, The Little Mermaid, at the Saenger Theater. The theater had suffered terrible damage from Hurricane Katrina but has since been beautifully remolded.

October is usually another crazy-busy month for our family, mainly due to football season, however we were able to squeeze in some extra activities. Lily, mom, and I were invited to a Tri-Delta soiree fundraiser for St. Jude to give a testimony about our St. Jude story. Lily was crowned Homecoming queen for her cheer team, escorted by Luke. The kids enjoyed trick-or-treating for Halloween - Luke was a football coach and Lily was Batgirl. And, we watched another Broadway show at the Saenger Theater, Cinderella.

October was an emotionally tough month for me -- not only with the stresses of my job, but also because Brendon, now working full time, had decided to move out a little earlier than expected. Even though he lives right behind us, it was still difficult for me as a mom to realize our babies do grow up and move on.

November brought on another life adjustment since I had decided to resign from teaching. I talk about my struggles with that decision in my last post, I tried.

Our family was invited to attend another St. Jude fundraising event with the Gulf Coast Police Motorcycle Skills Championship at Houmas House Plantation. The kids enjoyed touring the beautiful grounds. I worked there in high school and the home went through a massive transformation since then.

On November 16, the kids and I visited my grandmother's grave on the anniversary of her death. It's so hard to believe she's been gone for a year...
Lily was asked to be a flower girl in another family wedding and we watched her dance her little heart away at her 4th dance recital.

We spent Thanksgiving week in Memphis since we had to bring Lily for her annual appointment. Well needed time to get away and be with the kids after feeling like I neglected them so much to focus on my teacher duties. Lily had all good scans and blood work so she's now 1 YEAR CANCER FREE! Praise God! This was Luke's first trip with us to St. Jude. He enjoyed touring the hospital and campus and took tons of selfies. Ha! We went to the top of the Bass Pro pyramid, visited the zoo to see the lights, ice skated, watched the march of the Peabody Ducks, and even left our mark at Graceland. We also chowed down on ribs and brisket at Rendezvous. 

December, the Christmas season! I kicked off the season with another Broadway show, Newsies! I loved the show just as much, if not more, than the movie! Bravo! I had waited a long time for this show to finally come to New Orleans. Unfortunately, it was the same day as the kids' football/cheer banquet -but they understood. Luke earned his 5-year letterman's jacket!

I've never been to New Orleans as many times as I have been this year. So not two weeks after the Newsies, we were back in NOLA for the Teddy Bear Tea at the Roosevelt Hotel. Mom had treated us girls. It was such an adorable tea with yummy treats and drinks. 

I had enrolled Lily in Girl Scouts this fall with some of her little friends. Since joining, she's had an outing to the zoo, sung Christmas carols, and gone to the movies with her troop. Look out, we'll be selling cookies starting January 15th!

For the first time in a long time, Roger and I were able to go to a work Christmas party. A date night for us! I even bought a new dress. 

Christmas was really nice this year. I made matching skirts for Lily and Kora -- my Ole Maw used to sew matching outfits for the first cousin girls years ago. I may try for matching dresses next year. Every year, my cousins, aunts, mom, and sister make delicious pralines using my grandmother's recipe. We had a small crew this year and made six batches. Keeping with tradition, on Christmas Eve my cousin and I baked Ole Maw's carrot and orange cakes. Christmas night, Santa brought just the right gifts for the kids and they were very happy. It really was a nice Christmas...

It's taken me quite a few days to put this post together but I have enjoyed looking back over the past year. Even though I feel a few months of this year were the most stressful in my entire life, it's amazing to realize God's blessings to us throughout the year. I am so grateful to the Good Lord for carrying us through these times. As always I appreciate your continued concern, love, and support for our family. I'm looking forward to 2016 and praying for another hidden gem year! God Bless.